CUPE will always support expanding public transit systems in Quebec. But just because the eastern expansion of the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) is a gain for residents of the isolated boroughs of Eastern Montreal, doesn’t change CUPE’s criticisms of the project’s financial structure.

It’s obvious: the REM is a private transit project whose prime objective is not to increase the number of public transit users, but instead to generate profits and returns on investments through fares and urban development.

“Yes, connecting several boroughs that lack service to the larger system is a good thing, but what do we gain if the operating costs will be a financial drain on public transit agencies? Why did we completely push aside the regional metropolitan transportation authority, which existed to coordinate and ensure the long-term viability of transit in the Metropolitan Montreal area?” said CUPE Quebec President Benoit Bouchard.

CUPE’s analysis shows that the first phase of the REM will leave public transit agencies with a $500 million shortfall in operating expenses. If transit users, cities and the government don’t shoulder this shortfall, it will mean service reductions.

“The financial arrangements of phase one of the REM are a gamble and before the results are even in, we’re doubling down. Public transit is being dismantled and no one’s taking the time to assess how the privatized REM’s operating costs will impact public transit,” said Bouchard.

The REM is being planned and partially financed by the infrastructure arm of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which manages the funds of the Quebec Pension Plan and other pensions. The Caisse will own and operate the system on a for-profit basis. This privatization scheme was the first project the Canada Infrastructure Bank supported.